Featured Designer: Only Midge

FK chats to Miranda from Melbourne based accessories label, Only Midge.

Tell us about what we can find under Only Midge, and how did the label get started?
After completing a university degree in a completely unrelated field (IT!) back in 2002 I went travelling and ended up living in Tokyo for a year. I’ve always been interested in sewing and have been known to hoard fabrics and other crafty bits n’ bobs. During my time in Japan I found it impossible to show any form of retail-related-restraint and as such my fabric collection grew exponentially.  Without access to a sewing machine my poor precious fabrics piled up, neglected. Once I was back on Australian soil and had been reunited with my sewing machine, I got to work. I received a few compliments on a bag I had crafted from my Japanese fabric, so I thought I’d make some more for friends and family. They were well received. So it occurred to me that maybe I could try to sell them. I tried and low and behold, they sold! I spent every Saturday for the next two years at the Brisbane Valley markets selling my creations. I have since left the markets and Brisbane all together. I now work from a warehouse in Melbourne designing several collections a year. I usually have two different collections on the go:
1.An affordable range of cute little kiss-lock and zip purses for gals
2.An evolving collection of leather and canvas satchels for guys and gals
I also make a small collection of leather belts on the side.

Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to call it ‘Only Midge’?
Midge is one of the many, often short-lived, nicknames I’ve had throughout my life. The business has always consisted solely of little old me. Hence ‘Only midge’!

You’ve been going since 2004 – how has the label evolved and what have you learnt over the years?
Only midge began life as a single hat rack of home-crafted bags at the Brisbane Valley markets nearly 7 years ago. It was a humble beginning! A few things have changed since then, I no longer work from my living room floor and I have less to do with the actual hands-on production these days. Instead, I spend most of my time wearing every other hat. I’m flat-chat designing several new ranges a year, exhibiting at trade shows, picking and packing wholesale orders, keeping an eye on the online retail store and trying to fit in some PR and advertising too.

I have also recently started up a second label – Attic accessories. Juggling both businesses is tricky and time consuming! The past seven years have been an extreme learning curve. When I started out I didn’t know what BAS meant or where you go to find someone who can strip leather belts for you. I now know a thing or two about running a creative business but I’m still learning everyday. When it comes to Only midge I tend to be a little bit of a control freak. I’ve learnt that there comes a time when you have to relinquish complete control and let others help out. Sometimes this can go terribly wrong, like the time when my fabric cutter returned 100 bags to me, neatly stacked, that had been cut perfectly – UPSIDE DOWN! Somehow I muddle through and it all works out ok in the end.

Where do you find inspiration for your ranges?
I find inspiration in a variety of places. I start every week by attending a dance class that I love. I walk in with feelings like, I hate Monday and why aren’t I on the couch eating cake and watching Neighbours? And I leave feeling completely ready to conquer something new and put my creativity to work.

In a more work related sense, I love a strong colour palette and I constantly refer to my Pantone colour books for inspiration. A new colour combo can really set my mind racing.
I am particularly inspired by Japanese and Scandinavian textiles. One small scrap of fabric can inspire a whole new range of purses. I often trawl the Internet for design and print and pattern blogs. Some of my old fave’s are:

What are some of the hardest parts of running your own business, and what do you love the most?
I love being in charge and being my own boss. I am happiest when I am designing a new collection. I have recently started designing and printing my own fabrics and this is my current obsession. In theory my job is perfect, I can work whatever hours I want and take holidays whenever I like, I get to play with fabric swatches and dream about new designs.  In reality, I work 9 –5 just like everyone else and probably take fewer holidays, there is always a deadline that I have to stick to and the perfect design often needs altering because parts are out of stock or it is too cost-ineffective. Still, the positives outweigh the negatives and I can’t imagine what else I’d do with my life.

What advice would you give other small labels starting out?
Unfortunately all of the dull, practical things apply: research your competition, write a business plan, so on a so forth. But sometimes you just need to take a chance, stick at it and see what comes of it. After all, a ship in a harbour is safe but that is not what ships are built for.


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